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THE RANT: Bret Hart in WCW - What Went Wrong?

Posted By James Walsh on 10/11/17

Recently, Bret "The Hitman" Hart has been critical of one Eric Bischoff. The "Best There Is, Was, and Ever Will Be" blames EZE for his rather unsuccessful run in World Championship Wrestling which Eric Bischoff was in charge of as the Executive Vice President. But, is Bret right? Is it all on Eric Bischoff for the failure of the "Hitman" in WCW? Or, maybe just maybe, did Bret screw Bret?

The first thing that has to be noted is that Bret Hart was coming to WCW after a high profile screw job by the WWE at Survivor Series 1997. That event single handedly sparked a great deal of the wave of fans looking to the Internet for the "real story" and birthed this "smart mark" environment that rules the wrestling roost in the 21st century. If you don't know, and if you don't, where have you been? Bret Hart did not want to lose his WWE title in Canada given his character of the time. The referee called for the bell after a rather wonky looking Sharpshooter was applied by Shawn Michaels implying that Bret had submitted to his own move. Bret threw a temper tantrum breaking television monitors and ultimately punching Vince McMahon in the face in the shower where no cameras were around to see. Suspect? Yep. Did anyone challenge this? Nope.

But, lets assume the Montreal Screw Job was legitimate and all is as has been told. Bret Hart should have joined WCW as a sympathetic hero to wrestling fans and been immediately put in a top spot in WCW, the rival company.

So, Bret Hart's first appearance in WCW was a promo in the ring with "Mean" Gene Okerlund. Bret did not even wear pink and black, his famed colors. He wore a blue button down T shirt and looked more like a cowboy than the greasy haired "Hitman" of the WWE.

His first major role in WCW was as the special referee of the Eric Bischoff versus Larry Zbyszko match at WCW's biggest event of the year, Starcade. Bret was controversial in that role favoring the baby face Zbyszko. But, that wasn't that bad. What he did in the main event helped him lose his sympathetic nature character wise.

Hollywood Hogan had not won a match cleanly since turning heel in July of 1996. This was December of 1997 and Hogan, though champion, only won with help or by happenstance. Sting, Hogan's opponent, was built as the company's savior against Hogan's nWo and should have gone over clean in the main event. But, Hogan pinned Sting clean. Right or wrong, that is what happened. Bret Hart, still an official from his earlier referee job, came out and restarted the match and helped Sting win. In some ways, Bret screwed Hogan. And yet, we're supposed to look at Bret as a sympathetic character because... He got screwed? Sympathy lost.

Bret would feud with Ric Flair next and not with the nWo or Hogan which, again, makes no sense. Flair would, over and over again, replace Bret's "Best There Is, Was, and Ever Will Be" with some fashion of "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes". The promos were painful. The matches? They were fine. Nothing special. But, fine. Bret's in ring work was never really in question.

After months of not much, Bret ended up paired with the man he screwed over at Starcade and helped Hogan defeat Randy Savage in April of 1998 making Hogan champion again. The smart mark inside all of us hoped this would somehow eventually be a ploy by Bret to get in close with Hogan and ultimately lead to the match we never really got, Bret versus Hogan. Instead, it didn't really happen. Bret was just loosely a part of the nWo and was a heel kind of lost in the shuffle.

Couple this with the fact that the British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart had come over from the WWE to WCW making it a natural progression that instead of Bret joining the nWo, he would form a group like the Hart Foundation with his friends to challenge the nWo. That, also, never happened.

Some of this IS on Bischoff. Or, on who was writing the shows. Because, hey, it makes no sense folks.

In fact, ALL of this bad booking can be put at the feet at the man in charge of the company at the time, Eric Bischoff. For this reason, Bret might have a point.

With that said, Bret was not the same Bret we had seen in prior years.

What made Bret Hart stand out in the era of the Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior era of the WWE was his fire and desire to be noticed. It shined through even if he wasn't anywhere near the main event. His tag team matches with Jim Neidhart often stole the show.

There was NONE of that fire when Bret Hart arrived in WCW. There was a well-paid wrestler who seemed OK with being in middle card matches. And, maybe, just maybe, Bret didn't fight as hard as he did in WWE to be involved in angles that were compelling and ultimately took twists and turns as he had when he was with the WWE.

Simply put, the "Hitman" was not the "Hitman" anymore. He was just Bret Hart. And, that just wasn't lighting anyone's fire to play on a song WWE used when Bret first won his WWE title in 1992.

Bret Hart did find success in WCW. This is often forgotten. But, Bret caught a little fire when Owen Hart died and Bret returned to the ring in the Fall of 1999. His incredible tribute match to Owen with Chris Benoit was incredible and he ultimately got to be WCW World Heavyweight Champion when Vince Russo, who had previously booked shows for the WWE, jumped to WCW. His reign would only last a few months before a kick to the head by Goldberg more or less, more really, ended his wrestling career. But, Bret Hart's fire had returned. And, with it, his attention and respect from the wrestling community.

Could Bret have been successful in WCW if he came in with the right attitude? Was he doomed to fail because of the way the booking was set up? We will never know the answer to that question. But, it IS a question. It is NOT just that Eric Bischoff was this, that, or the other thing. Some of the blame has to fall back on the man himself. It is hard to look at the guy in the mirror and pin any blame on him. Trust me, I have as much of an ego as anyone. But, it is a question Bret should ask himself. Was Bret Hart's effort in WCW in 1998 really worthy of being the top of the company? Or, was he a broken man and maybe was he a tad on the lazy side?

There's my take. You tell me.